EMIRATI PERFORMERS took to the stage as the UAE capital officially began the countdown to hosting the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance, empowering people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.
The ceremony, watched by a packed stadium in the Austrian city of Graz and by millions on television around the world, celebrated the closing of this year’s Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria and featured UAE nationals from different segments of society, including UAE athletes who competed at the World Games days before.
The show used a traditional Bedouin desert setting to tell the story of how Abu Dhabi will use the Games to promote key values for all in society.The Abu Dhabi delegation also revealed the logo for the Special Olympics World Games 2019. The logo – inspired by the Emirati tradition of palm frond weaving (Khoos) – is a metaphor for the unifying power of the Games.
The UAE delegation, including HH Sheikh Nahyan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and HE Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, Chairman and CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, the first sponsor for the 2019 World Games, were all in attendance as the countdown began to the event in Abu Dhabi from March 14 – 21, 2019.
Sheikh Nahyan was joined by HE Mohammed Abdullah Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi World Games Higher Committee, as well as other leading dignitaries and representatives of the Local Organising Committee from Abu Dhabi.
The Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 Local Organizing Committee also hosted a special reception for 300 people in Graz, which included an array of high-profile celebrities such as Hussein Fahmy and NBA Hall of Famer, Dikembe Mutombo, in addition to delegation representatives from more than 100 countries competing at the World Games.
The handover signals 24 months until approximately 7,000 athletes from 170 nations descend upon Abu Dhabi for more than two weeks of competition. Male and female athletes with intellectual disabilities from numerous cultures and backgrounds will compete alongside each other in a worldwide competition that showcases their sporting abilities in 22 sports including football, swimming, cycling, athletics, equestrian and powerlifting.
Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 169 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year.